Practically Green, Led by Former Globe Exec, Uses Social Media and Game Mechanics to Spread Green Living

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by incorporating rewards programs, badges, competitive goals and objectives, virtual currency, and other social gaming features. What makes Practically Green interesting is that it combines deeper ideas around wellness, social change, and online media—and it seems to have a real revenue model (more on that shortly).

“We want it to be fun. We think friends are the most important influencer for you changing your behavior,” Stevens says. It’s like “social gaming but with real life impact,” she adds.

The site has been up in beta form since the end of June, with an official commercial rollout planned for September. Here’s how it works: You sign up and take a five-minute diagnostic quiz to evaluate how green your lifestyle is. Then you can start looking into various “green actions.” Want to add insulation to your roof, or upgrade your dishwasher to an energy-saving model? Practically Green has a page for each of those actions—about 400 in all so far. Each page gives detailed how-to information and rates the ease, cost, and benefit of the action. It also recommends products and services in each category, based on consumer feedback and a personalized profile of each member. A dashboard interface helps you keep track of the points you earn in four categories: water, energy, health, and “stuff.” Those points will eventually be redeemable for goods online, or in retail stores.

The tech wizardry behind the personalization and recommendation engine comes from co-founder Jason Butler, who previously worked with Stevens at the Boston Globe and has experience from Abuzz, The New York Times, and Amazon.com. Butler says the technical problem has a lot in common with local search and information discovery. “How do we get people the information they’re looking for based on what we know about them? It’s an interesting challenge,” he says.

Building up the site’s scientific content (about various green actions) and presenting the information in the right way at the right time to each consumer is particularly important, Butler adds. “We have to earn the customer’s trust and provide great information,” he says.

So how will this thing make money? Mainly through lead generation—sending companies prospective customers for their green products, say—and affiliate marketing, Stevens says. The idea … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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